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Category: Writing

Writing religion in secondary worlds

Writing religion in secondary worlds

When a fantasy or science fiction writer creates an alternative world, one issue they face is how to show that world’s religion. Religion as part of world building Partly details about religion are a matter of world building. Cultures have religions, and writers can use them to make the world feel real. For instance, a temple or church building of some sort is probably part of the cityscape. In my middle-grade fantasy, Finders Keepers, a ruined temple lies at the…

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Card tricks

Card tricks

I recently struggled through the first draft of a novel. Actually, make that the zero draft. It wasn’t good enough to be a first draft. I found the process even more painful than usual, and eventually I realized why. I hadn’t laid out my book on index cards before I started to draft. I’d written notes about the characters and plot, pages of them in fact. I thought I was ready to write and didn’t need to do my usual…

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What Carries Over from Academic Writing to Writing Fiction

What Carries Over from Academic Writing to Writing Fiction

The first writing I ever had published wasn’t a piece of fiction. It was an academic article, the first of many I wrote while teaching in an English Department and conducting research on the communication practices of engineers. You might think that other than both being written in English, those academic articles would not have prepared me for writing fiction. And in some ways, you’d be right. And yet, well beyond mastery of language, I learned at least three things…

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Where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

One of the most common questions writers are asked is where they get their ideas. For me, different books begin in different ways. Usually, I get ideas by playing “what if?” It’s something I can do deliberately. I read something or hear a news item or even a commercial and ask myself if there’s some way it could be twisted to create a good story. Asking what if? That’s how I got the idea for The Wind Reader. I was…

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The hardest part of writing a novel

The hardest part of writing a novel

Sometimes people ask me what the hardest part of writing a novel is. That one’s easy. It’s sticking to it even when the first draft is inevitably terrible. But once I get past that, the hardest part of any novel to write is the start. Beginnings are incredibly hard because you have to accomplish so much—introduce characters, get the plot underway, and, in the case of fantasy, set up a bit of the world. As a consequence, I can’t think…

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Why Read (and Write) Fantasy

Why Read (and Write) Fantasy

Not infrequently, I run into adults who are clearly skeptical about fantasy novels. Sometimes they even ask why I write fantasy rather than something “real.” These same adults roll their eyes when their kids read Rick Riordan or J. K. Rowling and say, “Well, at least they’re reading,” as if a fantasy novel is some sort of lesser book that might build a bridge to “real” reading. In at least one way, I understand that skepticism because I’m an intensely…

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Write True

Write True

When I write, I usually have all sorts of sticky notes pasted around my desk and screen. Some of them are thoughts I don’t want to forget about the story I’m working on, but some of them are general writing advice to myself. Things like “Resist the urge to explain” and, most importantly, “Write true.” All good stories are true Truth matters. People instinctively recognize falsity even if they don’t articulate that recognition other than in the trivial way of…

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Fight scenes

Fight scenes

I’m just going to say it. Most fight scenes in books are boring. Large scale battles or one-to-one combat, they’re boring. At least in movie fight scenes, the audience gets spectacle. In books, you don’t even have that. Instead, in a book, story is happening. Then the story stops for three pages while people hit one another. Then the story starts again. Boring. Battle scenes as process scenes The tedium of most written fight scenes is a subdivision of the…

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